In 2007, people quietly fretted about Windows Vista but were afraid to go public because buying Microsoft was the only choice. However, they voiced their anger massively and publicly once InfoWorld launched its Save XP campaign in early 2008. I believe we're set for a repeat, this time with HP's WebOS switchover being the straw that breaks the camel's back. I fully expect all the dark mutterings I've been hearing off the record about Microsoft's rudderless mobile efforts and lack of interest in a new version of Windows will go public. And I won't be surprised if those publicly voiced frustrations quickly expand to cover the many quiet complaints I've been hearing on the instability and difficult management of Exchange and related Windows Server products.
People are fed up, and they're starting to believe that something is about to change, or that they must create the change themselves. It's an eerie parallel to what's happening in North Africa and the Middle East today.
Of course, 2012 is a long time off in the tech industry's calendar. HP's executive suite has hardly been stable in recent years, so who knows if Apotheker -- who hasn't exactly been warmly received -- will be calling the shots then. Microsoft could lavish HP with money to change its mind, or find a way to penalize HP through unfavorable license terms or dropped marketing support.
More likely, WebOS may not deliver. It's not as if the first version under Palm got any traction, and HP's recent demo of WebOS 2.1 was very much a rehash of what Palm brayed about two years earlier. And then there's Apple, which will likely be well on its way to melding Macs and iPads as CEO Steve Jobs has all but announced.
Still, it's a smart move by HP. In fact, it's the only move if the company wants to thrive in the post-PC era. Think about it: As Microsoft sinks, only PC makers who have a strong alternative OS will survive. Apple is one of those companies, with the ever more popular Mac OS X and iOS. HP could be the other, with a WebOS that spans mobile and desktop devices. Where does that leave Dell, Acer, Lenovo, and the rest? Selling Android tablets or sinking along with Windows. For those technology-less PC makers, neither option is palatable, given Google's slow, awkward track record with Android and Chrome OS.
Even if HP's WebOS PC "lifeboat" plans come to naught, it doesn't matter. HP has broken the silence on Microsoft and indicated its lack of confidence where it matters: in its product strategy. Others will soon follow.
This story, "HP jumps into WebOS lifeboat from sinking Windows ship," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.